Things To Do In Madison, CT: Top 23 Most Unique Spots | Stanton House Inn

historic downtown Madison, Connecticut

When most Connecticutians think of a cute Connecticut coast town, they think of Madison CT. Or at least, this one does. Just 15 miles from New Have on Connecticut’s coast, it’s a place where romance flourishes. Serpentine rivers through marsh, a quaint harbor, and an anachronistic winery add to the unique charm. The landscape is dotted with rustic farms.

 

The town of Madison, CT, boasts Connecticut’s only beach resort. It’s got a luxury inn with a unique charm, and it serves a lobster roll that could make an East Coast seagull shed tears of joy. The town’s historic oceanfront showcases centuries-old architecture and miles of public shoreline.

 

The downtown area is a hub of activity. It’s pedestrian-friendly and teems with family-run shops, restaurants, and entertainment. And the town’s intellectual heart beats in a highly regarded indie bookstore.

 

Ready to explore the best things to do in Madison, CT? Let’s get into it:

 

Quick hits

  • Discover Madison, CT’s rich history and attractions. Enjoy Hammonasset Beach State Park, Downtown Madison shops & restaurants, and the Shoreline Greenway Trail.
  • Experience the unique atmosphere of Madison Art Cinema. Take a peaceful stroll along Rockland Preserve.
  • Plan day trips from Madison to the nearby towns of Guilford, Branford, New Haven & Westbrook. Explore outdoor activities or historic landmarks in these towns!

A Brief History of Madison, Connecticut

Shore Line Electric Railway streetcars on Madison's Main Street, postmarked 1914

Madison, Connecticut, is a quaint coastal town, formerly known as East Guilford. It was once a part of parish of next door Guilford, Connecticut. It became its own town in 1826. Locals named their town after President James Madison, the fourth president of the United States.

 

Historically, Madison was a farming town with industries such as shipbuilding, charcoal production, and milling. By the late 19th century, it transitioned into a residential town. It also became a resort community for seasonal cottagers and tourists.

 

Today, it remains a mostly residential suburb of New Haven County. That said, it’s still deeply connected to the nautical and maritime history of Long Island Sound. Home to around 18,200 residents, Madison offers an array of attractions and a charming small-town atmosphere.

 

The Best Things to do in Madison, CT

Sand and fence at Hammonasset Beach State Park on Long Island Sound

In Madison, there’s no shortage of attractions for visitors. For those who love the outdoors, Surf Club Park is a must-visit. It features a playground, bocce court, beach volleyball and basketball courts. If you’re into games, you’ll appreciate the horseshoe pits. The town’s sandy shores, charming shops, and enticing restaurants make it a destination worth exploring.

 

Hammonasset Beach State Park

Scenic view of Hammonasset Beach State Park along the Connecticut shoreline, a great place for outdoor activities in Madison CT

Hammonasset Beach State Park is Connecticut’s largest shoreline park. It stretches over two miles of sandy beach along the Long Island Sound. The park offers a variety of activities such as fishing, biking, and camping. Visitors can also relax on the beach or explore Meigs Point Nature Center, which provides educational opportunities for all ages. Non-residents can enjoy reduced admission fees after 4 p.m.. So it’s an ideal time to visit and witness a stunning sunset from one of the best beaches in CT.

 

Meigs Point Nature Center

At the end of Hammonasset Beach State Park, you’ll find the Meigs Point Nature Center. This place is a marvel of nature that offers hands-on activities and environmental education for visitors of all ages. Its interactive exhibits are divided into four sections:

 

  1. In the Air
  2. At the Beach
  3. In the Woods
  4. In the Water

 

The best part? Admission is free! It’s an excellent place to explore and learn about the natural world around us.

 

Downtown Madison: Shops and Restaurants

Charming pedestrian-friendly downtown area of Madison CT with unique shops and restaurants

Downtown Madison is a charming New England area, teeming with family-run shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. Enjoy a stroll along the picturesque streets and savor the unique offerings within walking distance.

 

Madison Green Historic District

Bench facing First Congregational Church of Madison in the Madison Green

Madison Green is a historic district in Madison, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places since 1982. Originally, it served as a meeting house for East Guilford before developing into a village and town center. As you walk along the Boston Post Road, you’ll encounter houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. One notable site is the Deacon John Grave House. Other nearby attractions include the Lee Academy, Academy Elementary School, and a community meeting building. Memorial Hall and the First Congregational Church from 1838 are also worth a visit. The commercial core of Madison is located east along the Boston Post Road, home to a variety of independent businesses. During the summer months, from July to August, concerts are held on the green every Sunday at 18:00.

 

First Congregational Church of Madison

Take a moment to admire the historic architecture of the First Congregational Church of Madison, built in 1838. This impressive church features a Federal-style design, reminiscent of a Greek temple with its Doric columns and Ionic pillars.

 

Deacon John Graves House

Deacon John Graves House

The Deacon John Grave House is a historic museum located at 581 Boston Post Road. It provides a glimpse into the lives of seven generations of Madison residents. Built in 1685, it is one of the oldest houses in Madison. The house is named after John Grave I, a deacon at the first Guilford meeting house and town clerk. John II, who ran a tavern in the early 18th century, built the house. It was home to Grave descendants until 1933. The house is open for events, such as the summer 2019 production of Into the Woods by the Madison Lyric Stage.

 

Allis-Bushnell House and Museum

Take a trip to the Allis-Bushnell House and Museum for a journey through Madison’s history. You’ll explore different time periods and architectural styles, all under one roof. The museum showcases the lives of seven generations of Madison residents. Each room reflects a unique style from the colonial era, the 1800s, the Victorian era, the early 1900s, and the 1920s. The Allis-Bushnell House and Museum is a captivating way to get acquainted with Madison’s compelling past and its inhabitants.

 

Chef Paul Barron

Meet Chef Paul Barron, a culinary genius in Madison, Connecticut. He creates culinary masterpieces, drawing inspiration from over 180 Northeast artisans. His cooking classes, held in downtown Madison, are a hit. You can book them for individuals or groups. For a more intimate setting, private parties can be arranged at The Table. No matter how you choose to engage with his services, one thing is certain – Chef Barron‘s food is a delight.

 

Madison Art Cinema

For a unique movie-going experience, visit the Madison Art Cinema. This intimate theater showcases independent and foreign films. It boasts a Dolby Digital sound system and an elegant interior. For a wider variety of options, you can check out Madison Cinemas. They offer a selection of mainstream and blockbuster movies. Make your night out in Madison, CT, special with a visit to this charming art cinema.

 

E.C. Scranton Memorial Library

Make a stop at the E.C. Scranton Memorial Library. This public library boasts a vast collection of books, programs, and resources suitable for all ages. Mary Scranton gifted it to Madison in 1901. Today, it houses over 114,000 volumes and offers more than 850 programs annually for various age groups. You can enjoy free Wi-Fi and computer access at this historic library in Madison, CT, if you need it.

 

Parks and Trails in Madison, Connecticut

Everyone comes to Madison for Hammonasset Beach State Park, but that’s not the only thing to draw outdoorsy types here. Though that is admittedly one of the best state parks in Connecticut.

 

Shoreline Greenway Trail

Scenic view of Shoreline Greenway Trail with incredible views of the Connecticut coast, a great place to visit in Madison CT

The Shoreline Greenway Trail in Madison, CT, is a scenic route offering spectacular views of the Connecticut coast. Perfect for walking and biking, this trail is a popular alternative to the busy Boston Post Road. Both locals and visitors enjoy its lush forests and diverse birdlife. Explore this beautiful trail for a refreshing outdoor experience.

 

Rockland Preserve

Diverse landscape of Rockland Preserve in Madison CT, perfect for outdoor adventures and wildlife spotting

Experience the natural beauty of Rockland Preserve in North Madison. With a choice of 17 trails and a bike park, it caters to everyone, from hikers to mountain bikers. The preserve also features an Accessible Natural Playground. Here, children can enjoy slides and climbing structures nestled within the woods.

 

Surf Club Park

The Surf Club in Madison is a misnomer. It’s not an exclusive club, nor a surfer’s hangout. Instead, it’s open to all. It sits on 1,200 feet of sandy beach. There’s a playground for kids and a bocce court for those who enjoy the game. For sports enthusiasts, beach volleyball and basketball courts are available. Horseshoe pits cater to those who prefer a leisurely pace. When hunger strikes, a seasonal concession stand is at your service. A picnic area with grills is perfect for family gatherings. There’s also a boating area if you happen to have lugged your boat here on your day trip.

 

Field House Farm

Sheep at Field House Farm

Experience farm life at Field House Farm, a sustainable family-owned farm offering:

 

  • Educational programs
  • Farm-to-table dining
  • Up close and personal interactions with donkeys, llamas, pigs, goats, and other farm animals
  • Programs for both adults and children

 

Enjoy a truly unique farm experience at Field House Farm in Madison, CT.

 

Shopping in Madison, Connecticut

Inside R.J. Julia Booksellers, near the Audubon Shop

These local favorites offer a trove of books, gifts, and birding supplies for both residents and visitors to enjoy. Shop local and support the charming businesses that make Madison, CT, a special place to visit.

 

R.J. Julia Booksellers

R.J. Julia Booksellers is a beloved independent bookstore in Madison, offering:

  • A wide selection of books
  • Author events and book signings
  • Staff picks
  • A cup of coffee from the RJ Cafe and Bistro
  • Exciting events featuring renowned authors like Hillary Clinton, Anne Rice, and Jane Fonda.

 

Find your new beloved book at R.J. Julia Booksellers, one of the best independent bookstores in New England.

 

The Audubon Shop

If you’re a nature and bird enthusiast, The Audubon Shop in Madison, CT is a must-visit. This paradise for bird lovers offers birdwatching tours, birding classes, workshops, and a vast range of birding and nature-related products. With their expert staff ready to provide advice and guidance, the Audubon Shop is the perfect stop for birding enthusiasts.

 

Restaurants in Madison, CT

While you’re here, be sure to enjoy some delectable cuisine at some of Madison’s finest eateries. Madison, CT, is home to some pretty impressive dining establishments. These eateries offer an array of delicious dishes, from French bistro cuisine to Italian Mediterranean fare and classic New England seafood. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge your taste buds in an unforgettable culinary journey when visiting Madison, CT.

 

Bar Bouchee

Inside the bistro

Experience the essence of France at Bar Bouchee, a cute bistro in Madison, CT. This establishment is the brainchild of chef Jean Pierre Vuillermet. Here, you’ll find a warm, inviting atmosphere and a menu that will make your mouth water. It features dishes like foie gras burger, cod fillet, hanger steak, and pike quenelles. Visit Bar Bouchee to enjoy a slice of Lyon, France, right in the middle of Madison, CT. No wonder this is on our list of the most romantic restaurants in all Connecticut.

 

Cafe Allegre

For a delightful experience of Italian Mediterranean cuisine, make sure to visit Cafe Allegre in Madison, CT. in Madison, CT. This cozy restaurant, owned by chef Ilario Suppa, offers a wide selection of dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. From succulent beef lasagna to the delectable pappardelle pasta, there’s something for everyone. The restaurant’s warm atmosphere and stylish decor make it an ideal spot for both romantic dinners and family meals.

 

Lobster Landing

Craving seafood? Try out Lobster Landing in nearby Clinton, CT. This rustic seafood shack is known for its delicious lobster roll and offers a true New England dining experience. It provides a charming, laid-back setting along the Connecticut shoreline. And fresh seafood dishes including shrimp, clams, scallops, and flounder are served daily.

 

Hotels, Inns, and Places to Stay in Madison, Connecticut

A room at a bed and breakfast in Madison CT

Thinking about a day trip from our Connecticut bed and breakfast in Greenwich, CT? Madison, CT is a worthy destination. It’s about an hour and 15 minutes drive away, perfect CT day trip distance.

 

Madison is more than just a quick stop. This place deserves a leisurely exploration. It could be your choice for weekend getaways in CT. Madison offers cozy places to rest and rejuvenate. It feels like home, but without the cleaning chores!

 

Homestead Madison

Homestead Madison is a bed and breakfast nestled along the picturesque shoreline of Madison, Connecticut. This family-run establishment, once a retirement home, is now managed by Ralph Guardiano and his daughter. It boasts eleven renovated guestrooms, including a two-bedroom suite. The inn’s decor is an eclectic mix of furniture, art, and knickknacks, reflecting the changing moods of its owners. Each room offers comfort with plush bedding, record players, and whimsical mini ducky marshmallows. Additional amenities include a popcorn machine and a selection of premium potato chips and granola bars. Breakfast is a communal affair, served at a large table.

 

Scranton Seahorse Inn

This historic bed and breakfast was originally a Greek revival mansion, built in 1833. Today, it offers seven guest rooms, each equipped with a private bath, cable TV, air conditioning, and internet access. A complimentary breakfast is served during your stay. Other amenities at the Scranton Seahorse Inn include a relaxing garden and terrace.

 

Madison Beach Hotel

This coastal gem has 33 spacious rooms, each offering breathtaking views of the Long Island Sound. Every room features a beachfront balcony, perfect for sunset viewings. Inside, you’ll find modern comforts like flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, luxurious bedding, and sleek glass showers. The hotel itself is a sanctuary of leisure. It offers a private beach and a full-service spa for ultimate relaxation. For those looking to stay fit, there’s a well-equipped fitness center and a seasonal outdoor pool. Hungry guests can enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant, followed by a drink at the bar. Even if you’re not a guest, you’re welcome to stop by for a drink and enjoy the sunset.

 

Directions to Madison, CT, from Greenwich, CT

Expensive car passing a motorcycle on a Madison, Connecticut, road

Traveling from our Connecticut bed and breakfast in Greenwich, CT to Madison, CT is straightforward. The quickest route by car is about 63 miles and takes approximately 1 hour and 17 minutes. Or take a train with transfers in Stamford, CT, and New Haven, which takes around 2 hours and 53 minutes.

 

For a more scenic drive, take the Merritt Parkway, also known as Route 15.

 

More Towns and Cities to Explore Near Madison, Connecticut

Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven, CT, close to East Haven

While in Madison, CT, take the opportunity to explore neighboring towns and cities. Each one of these charming Connecticut towns offer unique attractions, a rich history, and its own distinct charm. From historic sites and museums to beautiful parks and beaches, there’s plenty of unique things to do in CT.

 

Guilford, CT

Just a short drive from Madison, CT, is the historic town of Guilford. With attractions such as:

 

  • The Henry Whitfield State Museum
  • Town Green
  • Jacobs Beach
  • Hyland House Museum
  • Bishop’s Orchards

 

The list of the best things to do in Guilford, CT, is surprisingly long. Discover the charm of this nearby England town and immerse yourself in its rich history and beautiful scenery.

 

Branford, Connecticut

Branford, Connecticut, is a coastal town worth exploring. It’s known for the stunning Thimble Islands and historic landmarks. These include the Stony Creek and Thimble Islands Historic District and the Route 146 Historic District. The town offers a variety of outdoor activities set in beautiful scenery. It’s an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts and history buffs.

 

New Haven, CT

Take a trip to explore the best things to do in New Haven, CT, where the esteemed Yale University is located. The city is teeming with arts and culture. You can explore the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, among way more. New Haven is also famous for its unique style of pizza, often hailed as the best in the USA.

 

Westbrook, Connecticut

For a different coastal experience, you can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities in Westbrook, CT. Visit West Beach, embark on an island-hopping adventure, or delve into the past at the Museum of Early Engineering and Technology. Westbrook is a charming New England town that offers a serene retreat. It’s an opportunity to witness the stunning beauty of Connecticut’s shoreline.

 

Tl;dr

Madison, CT, is an ideal destination for weekend getaways thanks to its blend of history, natural beauty, and charming New England atmosphere. The town boasts historic homes and museums, beautiful beaches, and parks, catering to a variety of interests. So, why wait? Pack your bags and set off for a memorable journey to this enchanting coastal town.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Is Madison CT worth visiting?

Madison is certainly a destination worth considering. It’s known for its award-winning downtown area, stunning beaches, and delightful coffee shops and restaurants. It’s a place that caters to a wide range of interests.

 

Does Madison CT have a downtown area?

The downtown area of Madison, CT, oozes New England charm. It’s home to an award-winning bookstore, a variety of unique shops and galleries, as well as a range of coffee shops and cafés. It also offers numerous restaurants, entertainment options, and a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities.

 

Is Madison CT a beach town?

Yes, Madison CT is a beach town with over 2 miles of shoreline.

 

Is Madison CT a nice place to live?

Madison offers a wonderful living experience with its picturesque landscapes and a wide array of shopping and dining establishments. The town’s public schools are highly esteemed, making it an attractive place for families. Its rural ambiance and liberal tendencies also make it an ideal spot for retirees. With an overall “A” score from Niche.com, Madison, Connecticut is certainly a place worth considering for a home.

 

What are some of the top attractions in Madison, CT?

In Madison, CT, visitors have a multitude of activities to choose from. They can swim or hike at the Hammonasset Beach State Park, shop in the downtown area, or bike along the Shoreline Greenway Trail. The Rockland Preserve is perfect for exploration, while the Deacon John Graves House is a sight to admire.

 

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